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Ecumenical Origins 9 August 2007

Posted by mecca in ABUSHARIF, Culture, History.

In the early Middle Ages, the caliphal courts of Damascus, Baghdad, and Cordova witnessed countless meetings of Jews, Christians and Muslims in which the learned adherents debated the three faiths. The reigning culture gave such honor to the three religions, such respect to their principles and institutions, that inter-religious debate was the subject of salon conversation, a public pastime. Their deliberations gave birth to the discipline of comparative religion (‘Ilm al-Milal wa’l-Nihal) which left us a great legacy. Hardly any of the great scholars who lived in or near these great cities did not find the interest or time to contribute significantly to that legacy of human learning. Since those days, unfortunately, no such encounters had taken place; and the discipline had been dormant until the present century. The works of al-Ash‘ari, Ibn Hazm, al-Baghdadi, al-Nawbakhti, al-Shahristani, al-Biruni, some of the luminaries of the discipline, are studied around the world; but these constitute only the exposed tip of the literature on the subject.

Trialogue of the Abrahamic Faiths
by the late Isma’il Raji al-Faruqi
Professor of Religion, Temple University

Whenever I read Faruqi, I find sadness within me. His was a significant loss of an important intellectual and fearless voice of American Muslims. Faruqi and his wife (Dr. Lamya) were murdered 21 years ago. At the time, I was asked to be part of a special edition of Islamic Horizons magazine that commemorates the lives of these scholars, husband and wife. The authors in the magazine included John Esposito, Fazlur Rahman, Syed Hossein Nasr, Tariq Qurayshi, and others. I was honored to have written the lead editorial. He was 65 at the time of his death, and he had firmly established himself as the leading Muslim intellectual of the day, peers with giants, namely, Fazlur Rahman and Syed Hossein Nasr. His grasp of philosophy was said to have been masterful, and his awareness of contemporary and classical issues regarding Islam was insightfully connected with the great debates of his day. Things changed, obviously, but I do wonder how he would have approached the post-9/11 world. To be candid, I’m not sure who could have handled things better than him. I’m reading now his (hard-to-get-and-find) book Christian Ethics.



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